The 3rd-ranked and top-seeded Louisville Cardinals begin play in their inaugural ACC Baseball Championship on Wednesday evening against a foe that they didn't meet in the regular season.
Louisville (42-14) will face North Carolina, which defeated Virginia Tech 5-3 in Tuesday's elimination game to advance into pool play, at 7 p.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
In an effort to get ace Kyle Funkhouser a full weeks rest and an added day for Brendan McKay and Josh Rogers, weekend pitching staff an added days rest, Cardinals head coach Dan McDonnell and pitching coach Roger Williams called on freshman Sean Leland to start in the team's opening game.
"We didn't want to bring Funkhouser back early three weeks in a row," explained Williams. "I don't like doing that and I wanted him to have a full weeks rest. Obviously Sean Leland is throwing well for us and has given us some good starts, so we're going to start him in the first game and then we'll throw Funkhouser on Thursday."
Leland made 17 appearances during the regular season, including three starts. He compiled 4-0 record with a 1.11 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting just .177 off the Illinois native.
Following his team's win over Virginia Tech, UNC head coach Mike Fox wasn't prepared to announce his starting pitcher.
"I have no idea who is going to start right now," he said. "I’ll figure all that out tonight. Obviously we’re playing a great team, one of the best teams in the country. Great challenge for our players, I think. They don’t have too many weaknesses. They run. They pitch well. We’ll have to play pretty much a perfect game, I think, to have a chance to win."
This will be just the fourth meeting between Louisville and North Carolina. The two last met at the 2007 College World Series, with the Tar Heels claiming a 3-1 win.
Break the Trend
While U of L has won four consecutive conference regular season titles, a conference postseason championship has eluded them in recent years.
Louisville, which is 21-14 in conference tournament games under the direction of Dan McDonnell, is looking for its first conference tournament title since winning back-to-back Big East Tournament championships in 2008 and 2009.
Cards like DBAP
This isn't the first trip to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for Louisville. The Cardinals took two of three games against Duke in mid-April at the stadium in downtown Durham.
Tonight's contest is being televised on participating stations across the ACC network and online at ESPN3.